One concern for many families homeschooling high school is keeping track of the necessary testing required for college admissions. You may have heard of a long list of college tests: SAT, ACT, PSAT, AP, and CLEP. Fortunately, not every student will need to take every one of these tests. As a homeschooler you should carefully plan your college testing strategy based on the unique needs and goals of your student. Here’s a quick run-down on the most popular tests.
Most college-bound students take either the SAT or the competitor test, the ACT. The SAT runs a bit longer than four hours and features three subject areas – Math, Reading, and Writing. Each of the three sections is scored on a scale from 200-800. The test includes a mandatory 30 minute essay. The test costs $60 with extra fees for services such as late registration and sending scores to colleges. SAT registration for homeschoolers is available online. SATs are offered on school day testing and Saturday testing. Starting in the Spring of 2023 the SAT will be moving to digital format.
The ACT is an alternative to the SAT. Most college bound students will take one or the other. The ACT is a bit shorter than the SAT. It features four sections: English, Math, Reading, and Science. On each of these sections students can earn a score from one to 36. The four section scores are averaged to give a composite score. The ACT also includes an optional 40 minute essay given after the end of the rest of the test, which is factored into the English score. The essay requires students to describe and analyze three different perspectives on a contemporary issue. While the essay is an optional part of the exam many selective colleges expect applicants who submit ACT scores to submit this score. The ACT test is offered at local schools and costs about $60 ($85 with the optional writing section). To register, visit the ACT website.
The PSAT/NMSQT is the practice SAT test and the qualifying test for the National Merit Competition. Many homeschoolers are interested in the test for the possibility of scholarship awards. The year that counts for scholarships is junior year, but some students take the test for additional practice in 9th and/or 10th grade.
Colleges do not see these scores, so they are just for students to gain testing experience and identify what areas they need to work on before they take the SAT. The test consists of three sections – Math, Critical Reading, and Writing Skills. The test is under three hours long, and there is no essay. It is offered in October each year, and homeschoolers register through their local public or private school. Costs vary slightly as schools can charge an administrative fee, but the total cost will be under $20.
Advanced Placement (AP)
These tests offered by the College Board are a way for students to demonstrate academic achievement and mastery of core content material. Currently, 38 subject areas are tested and cover specific courses in core subject areas, including English, Math, Science, Social Science, Foreign Language, and Arts.
Most exams are a combination of multiple-choice and written responses. Homeschoolers can use AP tests to provide evidence of academic achievement, which is especially important for colleges with selective admissions. Also, some colleges will provide college credit for higher scores on the test. Homeschoolers make take an AP class online, or they may self study for APs.
APs cost just under $100 per test and are only offered once a year in May. Homeschoolers need to be aware of the registration procedures. Unlike some tests where homeschoolers can simply register online, for APs, students must work through a local public or private school to obtain a seat. This is easier in some communities than in others. Finding a testing site for less common exams such as foreign languages or art history can be especially difficult. It can also be more challenging for students with disability accommodations. The College Board does not guarantee homeschoolers access to AP exam test sites.
The College Level Examination Program (CLEP)
CLEP exams are offered through the College Board. These tests are meant to demonstrate college-level equivalency knowledge in subject areas. Thirty-four exams are offered in five subject areas. Some colleges will accept scores on these exams as the basis for granting college credit. CLEP tests, with some exceptions, are all multiple-choice exams offered on the computer.
Homeschoolers may take at local test centers often located at community college. Tests run around $90 and may have an additional local test center fee. CLEP registration information is available online. CLEP is getting a lot of buzz in some homeschool circles due to the popularity of online degree programs based largely on credit by exam. CLEP tests are rarely helpful for highly selective college admissions.